'Letters alive' is helping autistic children become more engaged in learning, its users say.

A menagerie of virtual 3D animals that swim, eat bugs, and fly are building crucial reading skills in autistic children at Audubon Park Elementary in Orlando.

Four-year-old Christopher Gomez lined up a set of specialized word and animal cards, including one with the letter “I” and a picture of an iguana under a camera to compose the sentence, “The iguana can eat.”

Christopher shifted his eyes toward a projection screen, smiled and said, “I like the iguana!” as the reptile appeared to pop off the card and onto the screen to eat an insect. A woman’s voice simultaneously spoke the sentence displayed above the screen.

Teachers at the Baldwin Park public school say “Letters alive,” software that combines interactive 3D technology with sounds, words, and realistic animal actions, is helping the school’s 50 autistic children overcome the challenges they encounter when learning to read.

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“A static image has little meaning to Christopher, but a three-dimensional image that interacts with him through movement and sound makes a lasting impression because it becomes functional,” said Mary-Elizabeth Langston, Audubon Park’s primary special-education teacher. “I hear the children throughout the day repeating the sounds they learned.”

Audubon Park is the first school in the nation to test the preschool and kindergarten program developed by Logical Choice Technologies, an educational software firm based in Georgia.